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Indigenous Peoples and Conservation in the Amazon: Interdisciplinary and Longitudinal Insights

Flora Lu, Professor, Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Oct 18 2021 | 11:00am to 12:00pm PT Online / Viewing in Bren Hall 1414

Headshot of Flora Lu
Flora Lu

Dr. Lu has spent decades working at the interface of anthropology, sociology, and ecology to understand the complexities of forest conservation in the Amazon. Her work elucidates the pitfalls of western-centric conservation and underlines the benefits of re-centering environmental values. If you’re interested in environmental justice, community conservation, or tropical ecology, this seminar is for you!
—Iris Foxfoot, Forest Sustainability Fellow, MESM 2022

Dr. Lu will be presenting remotely. Join online using this link and passcode amazon, or watch the remote talk in Bren Hall 1414 (masks required).



The lowland tropical forests of Ecuador, and the western Amazon more broadly, are some of the most biodiverse in the world. One standout is Yasuni National Park, located in the homelands of the Waorani, Native Amazonians who have captured global attention due to their livelihoods and life ways, belligerence towards outsiders, political and legal efforts, and resistance among Waorani in voluntary isolation. I first traveled to Waorani territory in the early 1990s, and in the decades since, have conducted multiple research projects exploring land use, household economics, common property regimes, health amidst growing market integration, and the entanglements of oil extraction. In this talk, I draw on this extended ethnographic research to share lessons from the Waorani about conservation, specifically the need to clearly historicize, contextualize and operationalize this concept. Such attention to nuance is particularly vital given the ways in which conservation agendas and policies have reproduced colonialism, exacerbated Indigenous dispossession, essentialized racial and ethnic identities, and led to what I have termed a "Catch-22 of conservation." I end with some suggestions for future directions that center non-Western cultures and epistemologies. 


Flora Lu is the Pepper-Giberson Endowed Chair and Professor of Environmental Studies at UCSC and Provost of Colleges Nine and Ten. She earned her A.B. in Human Biology from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As an ecological anthropologist, Flora is interested in human/environment dynamics in tropical rainforests, the political economy of oil extraction, resource governance, household economics, and environmental justice. Her longitudinal fieldwork among indigenous communities in Ecuador has been featured on the National Geographic Channel, has been funded by $3 million in external grants, and has been published in four books and three dozen chapters and articles.

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